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The Indiana Daily Student

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Indiana men's basketball team is ‘disconnected,’ unraveling against No. 11 Wisconsin

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For more photos, see PHOTOS: Indiana men's basketball comes up short on the road against Wisconsin

MADISON, Wis. — Indiana men’s basketball’s fate had already been sealed. Trailing 61-44 in the first half to No. 11 Wisconsin Friday night in the Kohl Center, the Hoosiers’ dismal first-half offensive display and permeable defense were more than enough to warrant the steep deficit. 

Then, sophomore guard CJ Gunn elbowed Wisconsin junior guard Max Klesmit on the side of his face. Klesmit was poking his head into Gunn’s chest and shoulder area, and in an act resulting in a Flagrant 2 foul and ejection, Gunn sent his right arm upward Klesmit.

RelatedINSTANT RECAP: Road woes continue as Indiana men’s basketball falls 91-79 to Wisconsin The Hoosiers haven’t won at the Kohl Center since 1998.

Flanked by Clif Marshall — Indiana’s director of Athletic Performance — Gunn slowly walked off the floor and into the tunnel, finishing his night by logging just five minutes and scoring 0 points. 

 “You gotta be levelheaded on the court,” sophomore forward Malik Reneau said postgame. “You can’t just let any small thing irk you.” 

 The flagrant foul charged to Gunn marked the fourth such violation in four games for the Hoosiers. And for the second time in that span, it resulted in an ejection. 

Gunn’s exit came on the heels of a 12-2 run from Klesmit alone, which extended to 14-2 after he knocked down his pair of foul shots. Despite desperate comeback efforts from the Hoosiers late in the second half, the Badgers ultimately cruised to a 91-79 victory.

Indiana appeared much more competitive in Friday night’s game than it had previously. The Hoosiers shot 43% from 3-point range, 81% from the charity stripe, kept turnovers at a modest mark and were only marginally outrebounded. 

Still, after pulling within 7 points five minutes into the second half, Klesmit and the Badgers exploded on an 18-2 run. Gunn’s debacle — sandwiched between the scoring outburst — proved a symptom of Indiana’s tendency to unravel in the direst way. 

Scoring a game-high 28 points and playing the full 40 minutes — the only player on either team to do so — Reneau prevented Indiana from experiencing further damage. While the team has expressed togetherness throughout the season, Reneau dubbed Friday night’s collective performance as “disconnected.”  

“We got to figure out a way to be one on the court,” Reneau said. “I feel like the disconnection happens when they start going on their runs, and I feel like we start not trusting each other.” 

For the Hoosiers, who lost their third consecutive conference road tilt and dropped to 4-4 in Big Ten play, the problems are deeply rooted and persistent. From a lack of consistent outside shooting threats to defensive struggles to a now propensity for costly fouls, Indiana finds itself clawing to remain in the NCAA Tournament conversation. 

RelatedCOLUMN: Indiana basketball blown out by Purdue, NCAA tournament hopes on the brink The Hoosiers took a 21-point drubbing to the Boilermakers on Tuesday night.

While sophomore center Kel’el Ware was sidelined with an ankle injury, forcing junior forward Payton Sparks to play 29 minutes, head coach Mike Woodson said it wasn’t an excuse for the rout. After the sixth Quadrant 1 loss, Woodson said the team is still growing together. 

 “We’re a new team,” Woodson said. “I’m not using that as an excuse...we’re still trying to figure each other out.” 

 Offensively, Indiana still looks like a group that hasn’t had much experience playing as a unit. The ineffective half-court offense and shot selection — issues that have sporadically plagued the Hoosiers this season — were glaring Friday night. 

In the first half, Indiana shooters frequently resigned to deep 2-point shots early in the shot clock. The Hoosiers took just five triples in the first half and made one. Senior guard Trey Galloway and freshman forward Mackenzie Mgbako combined for merely 4 points in the first period. 

Reneau cited a need to move the ball around more and prevent players from standing around on offense. Even when Indiana cobbled together a sequence of successful offensive possessions, they were never enough to dig out of the pending deficit. 

Woodson has stressed a need for consistency throughout the season, and through 19 games, Indiana is still sorely lacking. Now, with another ranked foe in No. 14 Illinois on Jan. 27 on the horizon, the Hoosiers’ opportunity to stack quality wins is growing slimmer. 

“We’re playing well in spurts,” Woodson said. “And that’s not good enough to win right now.” 

Follow reporters Will Foley (@foles24) and Matt Press (@MattPress23) and columnist Daniel Flick (@ByDanielFlick) for updates throughout the Indiana men’s basketball season.

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